At 80 pages, Weasels in the Attic by Hiroko Oyamada (translated by David Boyd) is more a novella than a novel. But Omada manages to pack a punch into this brevity. The three connected stories that make up the novel explore issues of parenthood and responsibility from a Japanese perspective.
In the first part of the novel the narrator recalls the time that he went with his friend Saiki to meet Shuzo Urabi. The pair are surprised to find that Shuzo, who is independently wealthy and breeds tropical fish, is not only married to a much younger woman but has a young child. In the second story, the narrator and his wife go to visit Saiki and his new, younger wife Yoko in their house in the mountains and over dinner they discuss how to deal with the pair’s weasel infestation. And in the third part, the pair again go to visit Saiki and Yoko after the birth of their baby girl, Yukiko, and end up staying the night due to inclement weather. Through all of this, the narrator and his wife are wanting to have a baby of their own, although it is unclear how much the narrator is invested in this endeavour, and what the underlying issue is that is preventing them.
Despite its naturalistic concerns there is more than a hint of the surreal in these stories that heightens the drama. Oyamada plays with the perceptions of her main character and despite the first person narration, gets behind them. And every element of the story is thematically resonant from the experimental breeding of discus fish to the disturbing story of how to solve the weasel problem (and the implication that this method was then used). And while these are in some ways universal themes, Oyamada’s sensibility puts an interesting and thought provoking spin on them.